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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 57

Senator ALLISON (4:23 PM) —I am pleased to join the condolences for Janine Haines. Although I did not know her well, as a voter and a constituent I was very interested in her career. Like others who have spoken about Janine, she was instrumental in persuading me to support the Democrats and ultimately to join. I pass on my condolences to Ian—Janine's husband of some 37 years, I understand—and to her two daughters, Bronwyn and Melanie, her three grandchildren and the rest of her family.

I thought I would start by quoting from Janine's first speech. It was called her maiden speech but it was in fact a speech on the address-in-reply, which is timely I thought. She said:

I will endeavour to uphold the dignity of the Senate, to pursue the interests of my home State of South Australia, and to add, if possible, to the ever increasing regard in the community for women parliamentarians already engendered by that small but effective group which graces this chamber. However, it is not my intention to restrict myself to so-called women's issues or to put only the woman's point of view, whatever that is. On the contrary, I intend to concern myself with as many issues as possible affecting the people of this nation and South Australia in particular.

The results of the recent election surprised everyone with regard to the size and uniformity across the country of the coalition victory. That victory has led members of the Australian Labor Party to beat their collective brows and to ask themselves and the general public where they went wrong.

Before government members become too carried away with congratulatory back thumping they should realise exactly what their support is in real terms. On 10 December 1977 the Liberal Party of Australia polled for the House of Representatives 38.1 per cent of the national vote, the Australian Labor Party 39.7 per cent, the National Country Party 10 per cent and the Australian Democrats 9.4 per cent.

I use that quote from her first speech because I think it was typical of her approach to this place. She was down to earth. She was not afraid to challenge either side of this chamber. I think that, apart from anything else, she was someone who called it like it was and was very articulate in doing so.

She was much too young to suffer a long illness and to die at 59, but I think she leaves an amazing legacy in this place. The Parliamentary Library, I am told, and many of the processes in this place were the result of Janine's work. At the point at which she had balance of power in this place—which I gather was most of the time that she was in the Senate—she was able to argue effectively that, for a small party with very few resources, she was not likely to be able to deal with government legislation without assistance. Thanks to her efforts, we have not a library that is just full of books but a library with experts who can provide senators in this place with very sound analyses of legislation and general issues in the community. So we can thank Janine today for that. As I said, the Senate processes, which have evolved over time to provide more accountability in this place, giving us a greater level of scrutiny over government activities and legislation, were due in large part to her efforts.

I first met Janine—even though I felt I knew her—in 1996, at the time of the federal election. She came to Melbourne to assist Cheryl Kernot and me in the launch of our federal campaign. It was an enormously successful event, made so by her presence. She was someone who was very much respected, not just by our party but by the media at the time. I will remember very fondly that day.

Since that time I have met her a few times, but I have had occasion to meet her more through the Hansard. The 25th anniversary of the Democrats occurred a couple of years ago, and when I looked back through Hansard to find some quotes to use on that occasion I became fascinated by what she said and the way she said it. I was enormously impressed by her ability as a parliamentarian, as a great wit and as someone who was as sharp as a tack in this place.

She was a fantastic role model for women—the first leader of a political party in this country. Mind you, the Democrats are still the only party to produce a female leader. However, I think what was important to women in terms of her being a role model was that she was not only the first leader but the first successful leader. Had she been a dud I think that would have been a major problem for women, but she was certainly anything but that. In fact, I would argue that she left most men in leadership positions in the dark.

Janine was critically important to the development of the Democrats as the party to be trusted with the balance of power. She was arguably our best leader. She was enormously popular. She was a straight talker—feisty but grounded in commonsense, and the combination of those two characteristics made her very good in the media. She spoke directly to people through the media and when talking to them face to face. Her loss to the Democrats and the federal parliament when she failed to win the seat of Kingston was enormous but, as was typical of her, she had made a promise to the Australian people that she would not come back to the Senate if she lost her bid for Kingston and she honoured that promise and did not return. At the time I remember feeling that she should not have made that promise, but she was a person of her word and was determined in such things.

Janine was fearless in criticising government but was very keen to work with government to pass good legislation. As I read through the Senate Hansard, there were many occasions on which she chided the coalition when they opposed the legislation being put forward by Labor and occasions on which it was the other way round. She had no time for the humbug of this place and no time for wasted debating. She was keen to get on with the job and to see that legislation could be passed, and passed with good debate. One of her favourite topics was the hypocrisy of men and male attitudes to women, including the double standards on sexual behaviour both in the parliament and outside.

She was a consummate parliamentarian—an intelligent, passionate, quick-witted woman. At her funeral, her brother talked about how clever and bookish she was as a child. She was also very rebellious and questioning. As Janine said, in her family she was weaned on equal rights. Although she made it clear that she did not speak for women, she spoke very much as a woman and she raised women's issues. As a former teacher, she was very down to earth and an expert on education, particularly the education of girls.

Janine was a strong environmentalist. As I look again through the speeches she made during her career, she was concerned about issues like uranium mining, particularly the Ranger uranium mine in a World Heritage area. Much of what she said then is what we say now. She was a passionate environmentalist indeed.

To say that she was a feminist, I think, is an understatement. She lived equality in her personal life. She was brought up in a family that shared household tasks—a family where equality was an expectation. Her husband, Ian, looked after her daughters when she came into the parliament. I gather she was criticised heavily for abandoning her wifely duties in doing that but, in true style, she was able to counter those criticisms. She had a rapier-like wit and a great capacity to shock, which cut through, I think, the prejudices and the nasty treatment of women that she struck both when she entered politics and from outside. In her book Suffrage to Sufferance, she said:

The fact is that women often have to be tougher if not smarter than men to survive in politics and it goes without saying that they have to be tougher as well as smarter in order to succeed.

She was certainly both.

One of the reasons for writing this book was to remind all of us, both men and women, how hard the struggle for equal treatment, in and out of the world's parliaments, has been for women everywhere. There has been remarkably little change throughout history in the words and pictures used to describe women who buck the system. Traditionally they have been depicted as sour-faced, unattractive, barren and humourless. Unable to win a man, they have turned their attention to becoming surrogate men and grasped at male power in order to take away their fun. Thus there were real fears expressed during every debate on female suffrage that such a move would lead to tougher rape laws, reduced drinking hours, punishment for the clients of prostitutes, closure of brothels, and the breakdown of the orderly society men had come to know and love over hundreds of years.

Back in 1978, it was common for men to display in their workplace their favourite calendars of semi-naked women in suggestive poses. Typically these calendars would be handed out by tyre manufacturers or local hardware shops. Now and again you still get a glimpse of these calendars in places like your local mechanic's workshop, but the practice is, I am glad to say, now rare. And it is rare because women like Janine dared to suggest that, if the boot were on the other foot, men too might be offended. She told the Sun-Herald that she would like to plaster her Parliament House office with nude centrefolds of men, which she would collect from a well-known magazine for women so that men would be confronted by these images—so that, in her words, `when the men opened the door, that would be the first thing they'd see.' Of course, there were no magazines that included male centrefolds for the pleasure of women, but the concept was enough to drive home the point that such images were inappropriate in the workplace, that they objectified women and that men would not tolerate being confronted by images of their own gender in the same way.

Dignity and integrity marked Janine's career, but she was also very aware of the political machinations of her opponents. In an interview within two days of taking over the party leadership in August 1986, with respect to the dilemma of her position as a woman in Canberra, she said: `I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.' Referring generally to male federal politicians, she went on to say:

If I raise questions of pornography, child abuse, incest, domestic violence, they say I'm obsessed with sex.

If I raise equality of opportunity, difficulties women face, they say I'm a man-hating feminist. If I'm flippant about myself, it's lack of confidence. If flippant about them, I'm a sarcastic bitch. If I make strong statements, I'm aggressive. If not, I'm weak. If I'm angry, I'm emotional.

... ... ...

We are constantly being trivialised, patronised, decried and stereotyped. We are depicted as mothers, grandmothers, wives and daughters. We are described in terms of size, age and hair-colouring. Our comments are edited into idiocy. We are considered mindless twits with nothing of value to offer the community outside the kitchen and the bedroom.

That gives us a glimpse of the wit of Janine and the way in which she used it to great effect in the parliament.

It is also important to talk about the way she wanted to see politics conducted in this place. In the second reading speech to her Human Rights Bill 1982 she called on political parties to get away from normal adversarial politics and to work together for the advancement of human rights in Australia. She said:

If ever there was a case for a matter of principle to override the considerations of party politics, it is the case for human rights.

She called the absence of constitutional or legislative protection of human rights in Australia `a national disgrace'. Some would say that it still is. I want to finish by quoting her again. She said in 1986:

I'm a rather boring person. I'm very private ... I don't like the limelight. And I've never been able to accept a compliment graciously.

Janine, if you are able to listen to us today, I hope that the compliments that have poured out for you are acceptable to you. As someone who did not know you well, as I said, I value very much the contribution you made to the parliament and to the people of Australia.